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For Release: Wednesday, October 19, 2022

DEC to Expand Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center to More Than Double its Size

Building Addition Will Enhance Outreach and Connect More Western New York Residents and Visitors to Nature

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos today announced plans to expand the Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center in the town of Cheektowaga, Erie County, and more than double the facility's size. The approximately 7,000-square-foot addition to the education building, will more than double its current square footage and enhance outdoor recreation and environmental education programs offered by Reinstein Woods while improving accessibility for visitors with mobility impairments and other disabilities.

"Reinstein Woods is a haven for the Western New York community to connect with the outdoors and learn about the environment," said Commissioner Seggos. "With Governor Kathy Hochul's ongoing support for increasing public access to nature, DEC is excited to get this expansion underway to better serve visitors in a newly expanded and upgraded facility that provides environmental educators with a valuable teaching tool for sustainable living and construction."

Reinstein Woods is a unique 292-acre complex of forests, ponds, and wetlands surrounded by suburban development. The Environmental Education Center connects people to nature through a variety of outdoor pursuits and provides environmental education to youth and educators through the school year, after-school, and summer camp programs. More than 200,000 people visited Reinstein Woods in 2021, approximately 15 times the number of visitors to the facility in 2007 when the existing 4,900-square-foot Education Center opened. On average, visitors to Reinstein Woods arrive from at least 26 states and 10 foreign countries each year.

The new facility will contain spaces that are inclusive and welcoming for all. For example, the structure will include space for outdoor mobility equipment such as trail scooters and gender-neutral bathrooms. The expanded facility will also add new space for exhibits and outdoor recreation equipment, including snowshoes and cross-country skis, and a 1,400-square-foot multipurpose room for environmental meetings and presentations.

Reinstein Woods is a valuable part of DEC's ongoing commitment to reducing barriers that limit access to public lands and environmental education. The center continues to support extensive programming to create lasting bonds with nature, such as partnering with several urban school districts and community centers to provide nature programming for children receiving after-school care. Reinstein also participates in the Connect-Kids-to-Parks Field Trip Grant Program, designed to connect students in New York State with nature and history by assisting with trip costs for schools and community centers.

In addition, DEC is working with partners to explore additional opportunities to offer free and convenient access to Reinstein in 2023, particularly for urban communities and people with disabilities, to help engage more New Yorkers with the shared environment.

Energy-efficient features will be incorporated into the addition and serve as a model and resource center to inspire New Yorkers to achieve the goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which sets a goal of reducing New York's carbon emissions from buildings and other greenhouse gas emissions sources 85 percent by 2050.

"Reinstein Woods is a hidden gem in Western New York," said Senator Tim Kennedy. "But word is getting out, and more and more visitors are enjoying this unique nature preserve every year. With this new investment by New York State, Reinstein Woods will have the facilities it needs to provide educational and recreational services for many years to come. Thank you to Governor Hochul and Commissioner Seggos for their ongoing commitment to Cheektowaga and Western New York."

Assemblymember Monica Wallace said, "Reinstein Woods is a tremendous asset to our community. It is a place where everyone in Western New York can come, enjoy nature, go on a hike, snowshoe, and learn about our environment. It's a place where kids from schools across the area can come and learn about our ecosystem and the beautiful plants and animals that inhabit it. The fabulous programs at Reinstein Woods have created an increased demand for more programs, and the expansion of the Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center allows the facility to meet those demands. Thank you to Governor Hochul, DEC Commissioner Seggos, Center Director Meaghan Boice-Green, and all the folks at the Friends of Reinstein Woods for supporting this beautiful place and the request to expand the education center."

"Here in Western New York, we are fortunate to live in an area of rich biodiversity. From forests to wetlands, to lakes and rivers, this is truly a place with unique natural spaces," said Assemblymember Karen McMahon. "Reinstein Woods is an important place in our region where people young and old can connect with nature. DEC Commissioner Seggos' announcement today of a major expansion of the Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center is exciting. Environmental education is necessary now more than ever as global temperatures rise and important wildlife habitats are disappearing. This new center at Reinstein Woods will help prepare the younger generation to take up the mantle of environmental conservation and preserve beautiful spaces like the ones here in WNY."

Assemblymember Jon D. Rivera said, "Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve is one of our region's hidden gems among a long list of environmental treasures. The nearly 300-acre complex of forests, ponds, and wetlands offers an array of opportunities to explore and learn about nature, and the major expansion of the Environmental Education Center will only magnify that accessibility. Thank you to the Friends of Reinstein Woods and DEC for their work to improve environmental programming for people of all ages and backgrounds."

Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said, "This project represents a wise investment in funds that will improve and enhance this facility. I thank Commissioner Seggos and the DEC for their commitment to strategic infrastructure advancements as representatives from all levels of government work together towards creating energy-efficient destinations throughout the state."

Erie County Legislator Tim Meyers said, "The expansion project of Reinstein Woods Environmental Education Center is a great investment for our town and community."

Cheektowaga Town Supervisor Diane Benczkowski said, "I would like to thank Commissioner Seggos and DEC for these inclusive improvements that will enhance the experience for ALL visitors to our beloved Reinstein Woods Education Center. A more green-designed facility is a positive investment for our community."

Friends of Reinstein Woods President Terrence Boyle said, "From more accessible recreation to innovative exhibits that connect people to the environment in creative ways, we are excited for the opportunities that the expansion of Reinstein Woods' Education Center will bring. We thank Commissioner Seggos and DEC for these improvements that will benefit all visitors to Reinstein Woods."

The $7 million project will be funded by the Environmental Protection Fund and the New York Works statewide capital infrastructure program. DEC is making strategic investments through its AdventureNY initiative to enhance public access to state lands and facilities and connect people with nature and the outdoors. Construction is expected to begin in 2024 and be completed 2026. The EPF is a critical resource for environmental programs such as land acquisition, farmland protection, invasive species prevention and eradication, recreation access, water quality improvement, and environmental justice projects. Among the many environmental victories in the 2022-23 State Budget (leaves DEC website), Governor Hochul succeeded in increasing the EPF from $300 to $400 million, the highest-ever level of funding in the program's history.

Reinstein Woods is located at 93 Honorine Drive, Depew. For more information about Reinstein Woods, visit DEC's website.

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